Is Nigeria still a toddler nation – Asks Prof Walter Ollor at 70

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Professors, others, say massive youth unemployment may sink Nigeria

* Demand for urgent national discourse

* Say EndSARS is mere warning as layers of graduands remain unemployed

* Youths migrate southward for greener pasture

* Demand for sustainable development strategies, population control, good leadership

By Codratus Godson

Is Nigeria a still a toddler nation? This question provoked minds Saturday morning at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt when Prof Walter Ollor clocked 70 and he marked it with a top-brainer colloquium and books.

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The EndSARS tremors may be child’s play if there is no serious and urgent but coordinated national discourse and action to combat the mounting youth unemployment rates with attendant southward migration of hungry youths looking for green pastures.

A professor and other eggheads who came together at a colloquium in Port Harcourt on Saturday, December 19, 2020, have thus raised alarm over what the eggheads called threatening unemployment surge in Nigeria. They have insisted on a national discourse to find a way out.

The colloquium mounted by the Walter Ollor Foundation to mark the 70th birthday of the Professor of Economics (Econometrics & International Economics), Walter Ollor, who was a member of the Vision 2020, and member of other top groups including the 1988-89 Constituent Assembly and the 1994-95 National Constitutional Conference.

The professor examined many theories and scenarios in his lecture at the colloquium titled; ‘A Toddler Nation’, pointing at many factors holding the nation down.

Ollor made it clear that the biggest fallout of Nigeria’s failings is massive unemployment and a burgeoning idle youth population that threatens the stability of Nigeria. The professor who in the far past foresaw and warned the authorities against neglect of resource control agitation said there are solutions that could help to turn things around and create jobs for the youths.

He called for sustainable development strategy anchored on ethnic-based autonomous governance structure that would create 250 cities in no time and create development centres around ethnic nationalities.

The econometrist who is Chairman of the Walter Ollor Foundation used the event to unveil two books: ‘The Effectiveness of Board Directors’ and ‘Beyond Economic Policy (Collected Papers in Honour of Walter Ollor).

The celebrant gave sterling counsel to the young ones, thus: “Note that success is determined by two things; Opportunity and Preparedness; saying he as a person is always prepared for opportunity. “I urge young people to check at their doorsteps if opportunities were not lying in wait there. Check if nature has not dropped opportunity for you on your doorstep. Many opportunities are lying waste and idle at doorsteps.”

Chairman of the colloquium and former two-time vice chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, a professor of engineering, Joseph Ajienka, said insecurity is linked to joblessness. “Lecturers look back 10 years after and see those they taught still unemployed. It is at frightening level and must be taken seriously. Let all persons reflect on the plight of joblessness seriously.

“Everyone is in danger. EndSARS is mere warning. Nigerians must sit down and find solution to the country’s problems. Ollor has set the ball rolling. He is one of the best from Rivers State.”

The emeritus professor who set up and first ran the famous petroleum institute in the Uniport said Ollor’s presentation as his latest intellectual activism, ‘A Toddler Nation’ is touching account of the stunted growth of Nigeria. “He is a man who puts his thoughts together. He has made suggestions on the way forward.”

Ajienka went on: “If Nigeria does not strive to achieve sustainability and stability, everybody will be in danger.”

Another professor, Bariname Bekee Fakae, the two-time vice chancellor who rescued and turned around Nigeria’s first University of Science and Technology (UST), now Rivers State university, said Nigeria desperately needs what he called an implementable roadmap so that any new chief executive of any public institution would be compelled to complete projects and programmes already on board.

He pointed to how his team picked up neglected and abandoned buildings in the UST (now RSU) and turned them to good and effective use. “The key thing is to have continuity of development plan from CEO to CEO, and from administration to administration, in any public institution. There is need thus to enforce continuity in government projects.”

A council member of the proposed Walter Ollor University, Georginia Ngeri-Nwagha PhD, called for urgent population control scheme, saying explosion is near. “Population explosion is Nigeria’s urgent problem. Birth control policy or scheme is urgently needed. Most of us in the south make joke of the population surge in the north to say cows join to vote to make huge numbers. It may not be so. I was in the north for election duty and I saw things for myself. In some compounds, over 50 under-aged children will troop out, born by about just three women.

“Spill over to the south is here. The northern youths heading to the south may not be for jihad as some southerners think but to hunt for greener pastures in every sense. Let Nigeria deal with population explosion, now”.

Another scholar, Eberi Nwigwe PhD, said; “Nigeria must get the leadership question right, else, the problem remains. Leadership recruitment is the issue.”

Chamberlain Peterside, a Moscow-trained economist and Wall Street practitioner before becoming a member of the Rivers Economic Advisory Committee who also ran the Rivers State Ministry of Finance (all under Chibuike Amaechi), said leadership was the issue.

He said from an economic standpoint; “People wake up and question their states (countries) when things are getting bad. Welfare of people is what matters. Consider cost and efficiency quotient of creating such large number of autonomous entities. Rivers State started in 1967 with one city, Port Harcourt, but has not created any other city to date. Rather, most investments have gone down. Things are on the decline.”

In a toast to Ollor celebrant, the former chief judge of Rivers State, Iche Ndu, said the centre of agreement at the colloquium is that a lot depends on how the nation chooses its leaders. “Choice of leaders is key to sustainable development which is key to stability. Effort should be made to ensure proper, safe, and agreeable way of selection of our leaders.”